delaware: digital transformation for the long haul

delaware: digital transformation for the long haul

Christophe Derdeyn, Partner at delaware Singapore, talks digital transformation, automation and cyber security for the post-COVID world...

The combined influences of the COVID-19 pandemic and Industry 4.0 are having a transformative effect on the ways in which businesses organise, operate and evolve around the world. The global transition to cloud, as well as the increased pressures of a multi-industry shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic, are prompting enterprises to reevaluate their approaches to technology and innovation, manage change, and break down existing siloes in order to unlock the agility and resilience they need to survive and thrive in the new normal. 

“In Singapore and beyond, we are seeing more and more customers developing a preference for best in breed over one size fits all solutions. One organisation will never be able to cater to all the needs of all customers; companies need strong partnerships,” says Christophe Derdeyn, Partner at delaware Singapore. 

At a time when adopting an end-to-end view, from operations and sales to IT and logistics, is more critical than ever before, delaware Singapore is stepping up to be the partner that its customers need to truly take advantage of everything that the digital age can offer them through its specialised SAP and Microsoft Cloud-focused offerings. “We focus on mid-market customers, who don't typically have an end-to-end IT platform just yet. They may have an accounting system, a system that manages production, another one that handles warehousing, and so forth,” Derdeyn explains. “We help these organisations achieve an end-to-end view of their operations by implementing the SAP ERP platform across all those previously siloed areas of the business.” 

delaware: a Different Approach

Founded in 1981 in Belgium, delaware has grown into a fast-moving global consultancy that guides organisations all over the world through their digital transformation journey, using the ecosystems of its key partners, SAP and Microsoft. 

“We are a two ecosystem company which focuses on solutions based on SAP and Microsoft. What we do within those two ecosystems is very similar; we focus on the core ERP and all its supporting systems, from warehousing to logistics to analytics, robotics, RPA and so on,” Derdeyn explains. “We are very specialised in our focus on the solutions provided by SAP and Microsoft, and we help our customers become more efficient at operating their back offices using these solutions.” 

delaware employs more than 2700 professionals and SAP experts throughout its 28 offices spread across 14 countries. Derdeyn was part of the team that set up the company’s Southeast Asian operations back in 2011, which has since grown into a trio of offices located in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. One of the key factors that makes delaware unique among its competitors is the way its various sub-segments are structured. “We are a global company, but one of the things that is different about us is how we are organised,” Derdeyn tells me. “We are a very flat organisation with a lot of self-steering mechanisms. We're not a typical corporation with a central headquarters in one location that directs what the other business units do; we have a lot of different local entities working together towards a common goal.” This non-hierarchical approach to organisation allows different divisions of delaware to better cater their offerings to their own markets, something which works hand in hand with the company’s position as a privately-held entity. 

“We believe in long-term relationships with our customers. Because we are privately held, we are not defined by ‘quarterly thinking’, which is very common in the market today,” Derdeyn explains. “Our thinking is focused on developing strong, long-term relationships with our customers, and we do that by making sure that we always deliver.” 

delaware 5.0 in Singapore

At a global level, delaware’s strategy and offerings are redefined every five years, with each new iteration reaffirming the company’s goals, mission and capabilities. “Every five years, we come together to develop the next iteration of this strategy. Today, we're in delaware 5.0, which steers the company at a global level,” says Derdeyn. “The more mature a delaware entity is, like our home market of Belgium, for example, the more of the global delaware 5.0 plan that will be executed. Singapore is a relatively young entity within delaware, which means we've needed to make some choices.” 

At a global level, delaware 5.0 spreads the company’s services across seven different industries: both food and discrete manufacturing, automotive, aerospace and defense, chemicals, pharma, retail, and utilities. In Singapore, Derdeyn and his team are choosing to focus on delivering best in breed services to three key verticals. delaware Singapore has selected SAP core ERP with Microsoft Azure as a supporting cloud platform as its main offering, with a focus on the food manufacturing, discrete and high-tech manufacturing, and retail industries. 

delaware Singapore also focuses heavily on information management consulting across multiple industries throughout the market. “About 40% of our business is related to information management, and a large portion of our client base is in the public sector,” says Derdeyn. “That covers the management of information and documents within an organisation in any shape or form. Whether you need to access your documents in a certain way, or need to store them in a compliant fashion, or require anything involving workflows, approvals, digital signatures - all these aspects which are essential, especially to heavily regulated industries like banking, insurance, utilities or heavy industries like oil and gas, where documentation is of paramount importance. delaware helps its customers manage those documents.” 

The other key areas of business for delaware Singapore involve customer service, including the management of all customer engagement between “our customers and their customers”, from marketing and sales automation to e-commerce platforms, and - in addition to customer-facing services - value added solutions. “These are more niche solutions which are intended to extend the other platforms that we focus on. They tend to be smaller in scope but can have significant added value in terms of how a company operates,” Derdeyn explains, adding that these value added solutions span cutting edge automation-focused technologies, like the automation of SAP’s security services and the implementation of robotic process automation (RPA). 

BOX OUT: Focus Digitech: Leading-Edge Cybersecurity Insights

To make a network safe, you need to understand everything that goes on within it. A significant source of cyber threat to modern organisations stems from unseen devices connecting to the network, which leave a potential back door for threat actors to exploit. When it comes to ensuring its customers have the best possible visibility into their networks in order to keep them as secure and safe as possible, delaware regularly turns to its trusted partner, Focus Digitech. 

“Focus Digitech has been a partner of ours for a long time,” Derdeyn explains. “There's their hardware business, which has been around for about 30 years, and then they also have their cybersecurity business, which provides very specific tools to ensure that organisations can gain reliable insights that allow them to improve their cybersecurity approach.” 

Securing the New Normal  

“One of the things we saw during the pandemic was that, because so many more people were working remotely, there was also a much higher prevalence of cyber threats,” recalls Derdeyn, noting that all threat types, from malware and phishing campaigns to state-sponsored hacking all became more common. The shift to remote work over the past year has prompted a huge rise in the number of cyber attacks worldwide. Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky estimates that, last year, remote workers experienced a 242% jump in cyber attacks on remote desktop protocols compared to 2019. 

For organisations with an end-to-end SAP integration, Derdeyn explains, fully understanding the kinds of cyber risks they are facing and remaining consistently compliant can represent a challenge for many enterprises. “SAP releases support and patches on a very regular basis. Applying these updates typically requires a lot of very specialised security knowledge of SAP's solutions, as well as a lot of work on behalf of your system admins,” he says. One of delaware Singapore’s most powerful added value solutions, he continues, effectively automates that process, while providing greater visibility into extant cyber threats. “We can essentially automate the entire process. We provide a dashboard with an overview of the customer's current vulnerability status, which allows them to make a more informed decision about which vulnerabilities they need to close up and which ones they feel comfortable leaving as they are,” he adds. “It's about helping our customers understand where they want to be on the curve, and what level of risk they can allow themselves.” 

BOX OUT: S4/HANA Migrations Made Simple with Datavard

“One of the things that is happening in the SAP market right now is the ongoing release of SAP S/4HANA, the latest generation of its ERP system,” says Derdeyn. “S/4HANA first hit the market in 2015, but SAP platforms have a very long lifecycle, so the previous generation is very slowly easing towards its end-of-life in 2027. It's only 2021, but an ERP platform is typically of such magnitude and is intertwined with so many different business processes that converting from one generation to another is typically not a straightforward process.” 

A classic SAP migration - called a brownfield - involves a technical database conversion. While the process is common throughout many industries, and generally quite an achievable task, Derdeyn warns that it has some downsides. “If you are moving to a new platform and you had heavily-customised your old one, a brownfield migration means that all that customised code gets carried over to your new platform,” he explains. “It's not really a fresh start. It could take a long time, be difficult to manage, or result in periods of downtime that your company just cannot afford - from several days to even a week.”  

When delaware looks at finding alternate migration strategies for its customers, the company believes in selecting the right tools. Datavard, a key partner of delaware, is providing those tools as part of a collaborative project the two companies are engaged in to migrate a Singaporean customer to SAP S4/HANA. 

“By using the tools that Datavard provides, we can ensure that, instead of having a downtime of several days for the migration - which our customer simply cannot afford - they won't experience downtime of more than 10 hours,” Derdeyn says. 

Delivering on the Potential of RPA

Successfully implementing automation into an enterprise’s ERP can be the difference between speed, agility and resilience, and the loss of thousands of hours inputting data manually. Derdeyn explains that, at delaware Singapore, they take two approaches to incorporating automation (specifically RPA) in their customers’ ERPs.  

“We have created about 50 different common business scenarios for SAP. We offer these scenarios in small accelerator packages to our customers, who can then plug them in and immediately start automating particular processes. These accelerators apply to the more run-of-the-mill scenarios which have a big common denominator across lots of companies,” he says. “We also engage in very particular use cases where customers might have very unique problems, and in those cases we can also work with those customers to map out the process they want and solve that more niche challenge.”

The Road Ahead

Over the coming years, delaware Singapore plans to continue leveraging its unique business model and specialised array of best in breed services to build long-lasting, beneficial relationships with Singaporean companies as they progress through their digital transformation journeys. “One of the most important things for Delaware is that our customers feel as though we have made a difference for them,” Derdeyn says. “Our key objective this year is to make sure that I can say that I have four to five new, happy customers that we can talk about proudly and who are hopefully talking proudly about their collaboration with us.”  

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